Perkins Specialized leased owner-operator Dick McCorkle (pictured) was there, or at least within a few miles of there, when jet airliners were flown into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center complex on Sept. 11, 2001. Specifically, he’d just delivered to a trade show at 42nd St. and 7th Ave., near Times Square. “I was delivering New York City for three or four years there,” he says. “At one point in time, New York City was our biggest city” as a freight origin point and destination. On 9/11, McCorkle had unloaded at an indoor dock when all the lights went out.
“They got an emergency light,” he says of building personnel’s efforts to deal with the outage. “They went to the fuse terminal and there were no circuits out — they couldn’t let me out because the doors were all electrical.” Finally, they did what they had to, utilizing crobars to pry open the doors. “When we got the door opened high enough for my truck to get under,” McCorkle says it became clear that something terrible had happened.
All traffic lights were out and the streets were filled with cars lined end to end. “We thought we’d been hit with a bomb,” McCorkle says. “We couldn’t do anything. People were wandering around wondering what was going on, no one knowing what actually happened. We saw the smoke, but we didn’t know where it was coming from because of the buildings” obstructing the view miles south.
McCorkle stayed put through the day, as later on that afternoon he saw people walking through Midtown from the Trade Center on their slow ways home. “It’s hard to describe,” he says. “I finally got out of there, just before daylight the next day, and got up into Connecticut” to a rest area four of five miles into the state on I-95, where he was finally able to get in touch with Perkins reps in Indianapolis, who told him what had happened. It was the first solid information he’d been able to obtain about the situation in which he found himself that day.
“It’s something you never get out of your mind,” he says of the experience today. “I thought it could have been the end of the world. I didn’t know what was going on.”
And as a member of a family with strong military connections, the Noblesville, Ind.-based owner-operator says, he wants it remembered. “My wife’s whole family is military,” he says, and though he himself has never served, “I support the servicemen any way I can. I hope the whole country never forgets it.
“A couple weeks later, I had a show load to New York City that had to be brought back. All the trade shows had been canceled. I didn’t do another trade show I don’t think until after the first of the year. All of them were canceled. I haven’t been in New York City much since. Work that was once there is no longer there.”
Dick McCorkle blogs as part of the Freightliner long-term Cascadia test-drive project at the Slice of Trucker Life site. He wrote about his experience on 9/11 this time last year, and you may remember him from my Exit Only piece about McCorkle in Truckers News and a vid posted to Channel 19 here.